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Marilyn Monroe was married 3 times: All about her husbands

Marilyn Monroe was married to Jim Dougherty, Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller.

Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, was a Hollywood icon beloved by many. But who did she love? The actor’s public romances, and three marriages, made headlines.

Monroe was married to her next-door neighbor, Jim Dougherty from 1942 to 1946, baseball pro Joe DiMaggio from 1954 to 1955 and playwright Arthur Miller from 1956 to 1961. Monroe never had children, but biographer Donald Spoto said she remained close to her husbands’ families. 

“She was never vindictive. She didn’t even say nasty things about her ex-husbands. She remained close to her stepchildren and others in her former husbands’ families, phoning them often and remembering special occasions with cards and generous gifts,” he said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun

One year after she and Miller divorced, Monroe died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 36. Monroe’s legacy was left behind in the films she made for her fans and the people she touched.

Now, her story will be told on the big screen in the upcoming film, “Blonde“ and “Blade Runner 2049” star Ana de Armas will be portraying the actor.

“Blonde” will depict some of Monroe’s romances, without naming names. According to IMDB, Cannavale plays “The Ex-Athlete,” a likely reference to DiMaggio. Brody is “The Playwright,” likely Miller. Then, Caspar Phillipson plays “The President,” a reference to John F. Kennedy, a rumored liaison of hers (Phillipson also played Kennedy in the Jackie Onassis biopic “Jackie”).

“Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking,” de Armas told “Vanity Fair“ in 2020. “A Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe. I wanted it so badly. You see that famous photo of her and she is smiling in the moment, but that’s just a slice of what she was really going through at the time.”

Here is a timeline of Monroe’s three marriages, including pictures, her husbands' ages at the time of their marriage, and more.

Jim Dougherty (1942 - 1946)

Marilyn And Jimmy
Norma Jeane Baker, future film star Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962), with her first husband, Merchant Marine James Dougherty (1921 - 2005) in Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, circa 1943. Dougherty was stationed on the island's boot camp at the time. In the background is the famous green pleasure pier. Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

LAPD policeman James Dougherty was Monroe’s first husband. On June 19, 1942, Monroe married Dougherty, then 21, when she was 16 years old. 

Schani Krug, producer of the documentary “Marilyn’s Man” about Dougherty, spoke to NPR about their relationship in 2005, after Dougherty death at the age of 81.

Krug said they met at Van Nuys High School in California. “He was a bon vivant, great sense of humor, and he brought that out in her,” Krug said.

But the reason she married him at such a young age goes back to her upbringing. Monroe’s mother, Gladys Baker, was institutionalized for mental health, as were both of her maternal grandparents, per the New York Times. She spent time in an orphanage. 

When Monroe was seven, Grace McKee, Gladys’ friend, was appointed her legal guardian, assuming responsibility (though Monroe continued to live in foster homes and orphanages).

Biographer Barbara Learning wrote, in the New York Times of Monroe’s predicament: "McKeen announced she and (her husband) were moving to West Virginia and could not take Norma Jeane with them. She offered Norma Jeane a choice: either she married a young man Grace had selected, or she would have to return to the orphanage.”

In the biography “Marilyn Monroe,” Donald Spoto characterized the early phase of their relationship: “Sixteen-year-old Norma Jeane tried to rise to the unrealistic demands of being a suitable housewife for a twenty-one-year-old independent man. She asked few questions, accepting the role of sexual companion and housekeeper enjoined on her by Grace and now expected of her by Dougherty.” 

Spoto quoted Marilyn as saying, “My marriage didn’t make me sad, but it didn’t make me happy, either. My husband and I hardly spoke to each other. This wasn’t because we were angry. We had nothing to say. I was dying of boredom.”

Dougherty was stationed overseas with the Merchant Marines from 1944 to 1946, per NPR; at that time, Monroe's modeling career was getting started. At 20, Monroe filed for divorce in 1946, the same year she signed a studio contract at 20th Century-Fox studios, per "The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe" by Sarah Churchwell.

In 1997, Doughtery wrote a book, "To Norma Jeane with Love."

Jim Dougherty and Norma Jeane Baker on their wedding day in June of 1942.
Staff Photo by Jill Brady, Tue, Dec 04, 2001: Jim Dougherty and Norma Jeane Baker on their wedding day in June of 1942.Jill Brady / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Joe DiMaggio (1954 - 1955)

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio
Marilyn Monroe with her second husband, Joe DiMaggio.Bettmann Archive

In 1954, Monroe married her second husband and former New York Yankees baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, per PBS. By that time, DiMaggio had been retired for three years and Monroe was a famous actor, with “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “How to Marry a Millionaire” as credits.

In Spoto’s biography, Monroe recalled meeting DiMaggio for the first time in 1952, when she was 25 and he was 37. The meeting was arranged after DiMaggio saw a photo of Monroe and wanted to meet her. They had little in common, Spoto wrote: DiMaggio had no interest in movies, and Monroe had never been to a baseball game. 

But, Spoto quotes Monroe as saying they had a connection. “I expected a flashy New York sports type, and instead I met this reserved guy who didn’t make a pass at me right away. I had dinner with him every night for two weeks. He treated me like something special,” she said.

Spoto pointed out big picture differences: “DiMaggio told her there could be no better career than wife and mother: would she not consider retiring, too, so they could have a family and private life?” According to Spoto, Monroe said she wasn’t ready, but said “raising a family was her fondest dream.”

After two years of dating, Monroe and DiMaggio decided to marry. In her 1960 memoir, “My Story,” Monroe said that she talked about marriage with DiMaggio “for months” and they both “knew it wouldn’t be an easy marriage.”

The wedding too place on Jan. 14, 1954, married in a small ceremony in San Francisco’s City Hall. The marriage was short lived, with 

Per PBS, a major fight came when Monroe was filming “The Seven Year Itch.” In a famous scene, Monroe stands over a subway grate and air sends her skirt cinematically in the air. Monroe filed for divorce in 1954. 

A handwritten letter to Monroe from DiMaggio written after the divorce read, “Don’t know what you’re thoughts are about me, — but I can tell you I love you sincerely, — way deep in my heart, irregardless of anything,” per a transcription on Julien’s Auctions.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio Dining
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio have dinner at El Morocco after Marilyn came to New York to shoot a couple of scenes for a movie.Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Arthur Miller (1956 - 1961)

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe at Miller's house in Roxbury, a few hours before their wedding.Bettmann Archive

Monroe’s longest marriage was to her third husband, “Crucible” playwright Arthur Miller. They met in 1951, according to “The Genius and the Goddess,” a book about their relationship.  

“When they met she was an insecure and little-known model and actress; by the time they married she had become a glamorous star whose image was known all across the world,” Jeffrey Masters wrote. Masters said they wrote letters over the years. “They were a most unlikely couple, yet on their first meeting they formed an emotional bond that survived a long separation.” 

Their letters show their feelings for each other:  “It is just that I believe that I should really die if I ever lost you,” Miller wrote to Monroe. “It is as if we were born the same morning, when no other life existed on this earth.”

Of that time in his life, Miller wrote in “Timebends," his 1987 autobiography, “I no longer knew what I wanted, certainly not the end of my marriage, but the thought of putting Marilyn out of my life was unbearable.” 

Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and his dog Hugo at Miller's h
Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and his dog Hugo at Miller's home in Roxbury, CT.Seymour Wally / NY Daily News via Getty Images

Miller didn’t end up getting a divorce until 1956 and that same year, he married Monroe at a courtroom in White Plains, New York. She was 30; he was 40.

Their bond hit a few roadblocks. In England, while filming “The Prince and the Showgirl “with Laurence Olivier in 1957, Monroe came across notes that Miller had written about her.

Monroe summarized what Miller had written to Lee and Paula Strasberg, per Anthony Summers’ book “Goddess:" "How he thought I was some kind of angel but now he guessed he was wrong. That his first wife had let him down, but I had done something worse."

In 1960, the couple’s relationship took a turn for the worst when Monroe began working on her film “The Misfits,” which was written by Miller.

On set, Monroe and Miller had a hard time working together. According to Vanity Fair, Monroe wrote in her diary, “I still feel hopeless. I think I hate it here because there is no love here anymore…”

To the New York Times, Rebecca Miller, Arthur Miller’s daughter, guessed as to what went wrong. “They were not matched. They tried and they just bungled it. She was the rose and he was definitely the gardener. But he’s more of a rose and he needed a gardener. People can only play the other part for so long,” she said.

Monroe and Miller ended up getting a divorce in 1961. In 1962, he married his third wife, Inge Morath, and they stayed together ‘til her death in 2002.